Interrogatories — How to Count Subparts for Purposes of the Limit of 25 Interrogatories per Party

Rule 33(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[u]nless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a party may serve on any other party no more than 25 written interrogatories, including all discrete subparts." The question is what constitutes just “one” interrogatory. From Mitchell Co. v. Campus, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47505 (S.D. Ala. June 16, 2008):

● “While, as one court has indicated, ‘[t]he word, “discrete,” essentially means, “separate[,]”’ …, the majority of district courts to have addressed the issue are in agreement that the process of ‘[i]dentifying a 'discrete subpart' has proven difficult.’”

● “[M]ost district courts … have adopted and applied the related question test to determine whether the subparts are discrete, asking whether the particular subparts are logically or factually subsumed within and necessarily related to the primary question.”

● “In other words, if the first question can be answered fully and completely without answering the second question, then the second question is totally independent of the first and not factually subsumed within and necessarily related to the primary question…. Genuine subparts should not be counted as separate interrogatories. However, discrete or separate questions should be counted as separate interrogatories, notwithstanding they are joined by a conjunctive word and may be related."

Information and Corroborating Documents = 2 Interrogatories. “The first and most obvious example is the combining in a single interrogatory of a demand for information and a demand for the documents that pertain to that event. Clearly, these are two distinct demands because knowing an event occurred is entirely different from learning about the documents that evidence it occurred." [Citation omitted.]

Witness Plus Substance of Testimony = 1 Interrogatory. “The primary question is directed to identifying any Mitchell Company person with personal knowledge or information, etc., about plaintiff's claims or allegations in the complaint. The secondary question asks that for each person identified in response to the primary question, the facts and information known by each such person. The … facts and information specifically known by a party and its employees are logically and factually subsumed within the primary question asking for identification of individuals possessing relevant facts and information about the complaint and the claims contained therein.”

Attorney-Client Relationship and Details of Relationship = 1 Interrogatory. “The primary question asks for a list of all legal matters plaintiff claims it established an attorney-client relationship with Matthews. The … four remaining inquires about dates each relationship began and ended, the scope of each relationship, and the work performed by the defendant during the relationship are all logically and factually subsumed within the primary inquiry about identifying each attorney-client relationship.”

Work Performed & Reasons Unsatisfactory = 2 Interrogatories. “First, the interrogatory asks plaintiff to state, with respect to each legal matter identified in response to Interrogatory 2, whether Matthews failed to perform satisfactorily, or made any omission in his performance of work. The related subpart contained in this interrogatory asks plaintiff to specifically state how Matthews' performance was unsatisfactory. The undersigned, however, cannot find that Matthews' request for the identification of all employees, etc. of TMC with knowledge of, or who possess documents relating to, Matthews' unsatisfactory performance is logically and factually subsumed in the identification of such unsatisfactory performance.

Identification of Employees and Dates of Employment = 1 Interrogatory. “The primary question requests identification of all employees, etc., of TMC who had any written or oral communications with Matthews. The … three remaining inquires about dates each such identified employee's employment with plaintiff, the position(s) held by such individual, and job descriptions for each identified individual are all logically and factually subsumed within the primary inquiry about identifying each employee, etc., who communicated with Matthews.”

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